To me the perfect muffin is the one that looks like looks like it’s wearing a Mexican hat with a rounded top. It’s the kind you draw when your doodling (or is that just what I do?) and it’s the kind that can be hard to achieve until you have some ‘know-how’. Do you know the kind? I went on the hunt for the secrets behind this look and I have some very good news for you: I found them. ALL of them. So listen in close, because I’m going to reveal them all. Ready?

There’s just a couple of tricks you need to know:

1. The flour you use can affect the look of your muffin considerably. I’ve noticed that recipes with a higher flour ratio (between 2-4 cups) create a much better ‘Mexican hat look’ then muffin recipes with less flour (1+1/2 cups). However, sometimes this can affect the flavour and texture of your muffin so you may need to make a compromise between the muffin top look and taste.

Also using only wholewheat flour (instead of combining both white and wholemeal flour) can prevent a muffin from rising well. This is because the endosperm and bran (in the flour) weighs the baked product down slightly, making it harder to give lift to the muffin. Wholewheat flour is definitely better for you than white flour and also creates a delicious nutty flavour and sometimes I want this over the perfect muffin top (that was hard to admit). However if you are out for the perfect muffin top, stick with white flour for best results or a combination of white and wholemeal.

2. Baking Soda and Baking Powder. Although both are chemical leaveners, baking soda and baking powder work slightly differently, producing slightly different results. Generally, baking powder makes baked goods puff whereas baking soda makes them spread. Without baking soda, it’s hard to achieve the edge of the Mexican hat (so-to-speak). We just have to ensure that the recipe has an acid to balance the baking soda (learn more about baking soda and baking powder here). Also, muffins with the muffin top are usually over leavened, i.e. they have a lot of baking powder (around 1 1/2- 2 tsp per cup flour compared with a normal 1 tsp per cup of flour). Surprisingly they don’t seem to collapse on top of themselves which can usually happen if baked goods are over-leavened

3. Fill to the brim Most recipes say to fill the muffin holes to about 3/4 full. For the muffin top look we need to fill them right to the brim.

4. Perhaps most importantly is the temperature of the oven.

Giving your muffins a boost of extra hot heat (220C/420F) when they first go in the oven helps the outside of the muffin to set quickly whilst the inside of the muffin continues to rise, resulting in the muffin top/domed look. Turning the oven down a little after 5-10 minutes or even as soon as the muffins go into the oven (around 180C/350F) prevents the muffin tops from burning whilst the inside of the muffin continues baking.

5. Once the muffins are cooked and have cooled for 5 minutes or so, tip the warm muffins out onto a clean tea towel and leave to finish cooling upside down. Not only does this prevent soggy bottoms (eeek) it also promotes volume and enhances the dome look. Alton Brown is a great believer in this.

6. A new trick I learned recently was that muffins baked in muffin liners/paper cups, tend to create more of a dome look opposed to the Mexican hat look. They still rise beautifully but they rise to the sky resembling more of a mountain peak, which is fine if that’s what you like.

…and there we have it. A few little secrets to help us create the perfect cafe-style muffins with the perfect muffin tops. Let’s never have a flat muffin top ever again. Try these tips using the recipe below – you can substitute the blueberries for anything you have on hand (see notes in recipe).

What does your perfect muffin look like?


Check out the full recipe for: